Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 is the first version that understands what I’m saying 99% of the time. According to Nuance, the software has become 15% more accurate than its predecessor, and I do believe that’s no marketing hyperbole.
Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 recognizes my dictation faster, has more advanced correction, and lets me easily select an alternate word choice. The new transcription capability using a voice recorder or a mobile with the mic app you can download for free from the Nuance web site, is a great improvement too.
I tested Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 with the brilliant Plantronics Savi 745 DECT system and with a WAV file from a Zoom H4n audio recorder. After having played with it now for good a week, I’m convinced Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 shows the way towards future interfacing with a Mac: through speech.
Under the hood, an enhanced audio engine and further refinements of the recognition algorithms are responsible for my enthusiasm. Although Dragon Dictate 3 still gets its wrong with some words that I really think it should get right (Mistaking “this” for “Hiss”, for example). It’s much better than Mountain Lion’s built-in Dictate, though.
And mistakes also depend on how you position the microphone. For example, I found that transcribing was awful with unusable results. Until I listened to the recording. It turned out that I’d kept the mics on the H4n much too close to my mouth, with a lot of rumbling and thunderous sounds as I uttered B’s and D’s. Keeping the mic further away did the job.
Correcting misinterpretations makes the application learn. The Express Editor is a nice addition to Dragon Dictate for Mac 3. It allows you to dictate in a lot more apps than before.
Transcription is in my opinion the “coolest” new feature. It works with MOV, WAV, M4A, MP4, AIF and AIFF files. The recommended workflow is that you start with a clip of at least 20 seconds to train the app.
You can use an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android or other smartphone, or a voice recorder or audio recorder as I did. Select Transcription from the menu, load your file, and Dragon Dictate will enable you to calibrate the input. After calibration, the app is ready to use with the recorder.
So, will I use Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 for my daily writing? The answer is not straightforward. I think I will use it, yes, but when I need to go forward really fast, in the beginning — when I’m still learning the myriad commands and such — I will certainly keep reverting to the keyboard.
Ultimately, using dictation software requires some self-discipline and some learning on the part of the user. Mountain Lion’s Dictate feature looks like it’s effortless, but it is so simple and basic that it is more of a gimmick than something you can use to write serious stuff. Dragon Dictate for Mac 3 supports the serious stuff, but if you’re lazy, it will drive you nuts until you master it. Then again, if you’re lazy, you’re probably never going to write serious stuff anyway!